A Renaissance Woman: An Interview with Publisher, Poet, and Designer Extraordinaire Kat Georges
by Constance Renfrow
We at Three Rooms Press rang in the New Year with plenty of fanfare, literary joie de vivre, and rocking good music, and now we’re keeping up the excitement for 2016 with some exquisite conversation. We sat down with poet, playwright, prose-writer, graphic designer, and Three Rooms Press co-director, Kat Georges, to discuss books, artistic creation, and what it is that makes this Renaissance woman tick!
As the co-director of Three Rooms Press, you obviously have a lot of reading (and re-reading) to do. Can you talk about some of the things you’re reading for 3RP? What about for fun?
As co-director of Three Rooms Press, I get the opportunity to read a huge amount of literature. Not only do I read the submissions that flow in to us, but I also need to keep up to date on contemporary books by other publishing houses, as well as any older books that inform these newer books. Plus I get to read all of our forthcoming books waaaaaayyy before they come out in print—how lucky is that? Right now I’m reading CHAMPAGNE AND COCAINE by Richard Vetere, a fantastic novel about the NYC disco era in which the main character finds himself making some wrong choices that lead to serious, brutal consequences. Chilling writing and fierce characters make this one a real page-turner. I recently read H IS FOR HAWK by Helen Macdonald, and can’t recommend it highly enough. For fun, I try to slip in a juicy detective novel whenever I can—love the form—especially Raymond Chandler. And when I need to be inspired for some creative endeavor, I read poetry—right now I’m reading THE POETRY OF ARAB WOMEN, a great anthology that includes standout work by Naomi Shihab Nye and Nadia Tuéni.
Of all the books you’ve read, can you name a favorite? Additionally, looking back, is there one that you would say “changed your life” or had a lasting impact—even if you didn’t necessarily like it?
Changed my life: JANE EYRE. When I read it in sixth grade I found myself truly carried away into a world of imagination—my first “real” book! Lasting impact: NAUSEA by Sartre. It had both a physical and psychological effect—I could barely move for days after reading it and didn’t know the cause until someone asked me what I’d been reading.
You and co-director Peter Carlaftes started Three Rooms Press together in the early nineties. How did 3RP come to be? Did you imagine then it would be such a long-term project? How has it grown and evolved?
Have you ever picked up an old book with tender care, opened the cover, smelled the worn pages, run your fingers lovingly over the type, then flipped through the title pages with wonder before a final sip of tea brings you to dive into reading page one? Books are vessels of culture that retain human imagination. I’ve been into publishing since high school because I want to be a part of that lineage. In San Francisco, Peter and I started Three Rooms Press as a way to capture some of the great poetry that was read at poetry readings at the Café Babar, Paradise Lounge and the Albion. I loved Peter’s poetry and published a couple books of his and mine and a few others, stapling them together by hand. I always wanted it to be an ongoing project. With the onset of Print on Demand in the aughts, we were able to start publishing short run, perfect-bound poetry books. We always looked for a way to grow so that we could publish novels and nonfiction. When we published ON AND OFF BASS by the phenomenal punk rock bassist Mike Watt, we had enough success to get a distributor, PGW/Perseus, interested in distributing our books. This has made a huge difference, with our new titles going out to bookstores throughout the US in addition to being available online. Now we’re publishing about 10–12 books a year and working much further in advance than back in the old days. And since we’re no longer focused on poetry, we’re getting more and more compelling submissions in from writers whose work deserves a chance for a broader audience. It’s exciting!
You also design the majority of the book covers, as well as the interior layouts for each book. Is there anything you would like authors, potential submitters, or even readers to know about the design side?
You can judge a book by its cover. Or at least decide if you’re going to buy it our not. And the way a book is laid out makes a big difference in the reader experience. I love designing books that make the words on the page readable and memorable.
You recently premiered your new epic poem “Medication Time” at The Parkside Lounge. Can you tell us a little about this project? And what are you currently working on?
I wanted to write a long piece on the present state of American society and how it relates to the individual. This poem rocks! I think I’ll go old school and publish it as a chapbook. I’m currently working on putting together a collection of three of my bio-plays: Art Was Here (about Arthur Cravan), SCUM: The Valerie Solanas Story, and Camille in Persona: A Portrait of Camille Paglia. Plan to publish it in Winter 2017, which seems so far away, but that’s what having a distributor does to you: you live in multiple time zones, years apart. And I’m always creating poems and a life.
Do you have any advice for new writers/artists/creative types? What do you wish you had known when you were first getting started?
My advice to creative types? Create! Always! As Sarah Bernhard said, “Life is short, even for those who live a long time.” So try to create something every day.
And since I always ask: Do you have any writing rituals?
My biggest writing ritual is to write. Get the words out of your brain and onto paper where they belong. I used to try the old “write for a few hours each morning” routine, but when I couldn’t keep it up with it, I started to think bad thoughts. So now I write whenever I can, like William Carlos Williams. As a physician, he couldn’t commit to a writing schedule, so he wrote in his office between appointments.
What do you for fun that’s not writing?
Two years ago I started learning how to play one-wall handball. Now I can’t get enough! And I play flute as often as possible.
Can you make us a Three Rooms Press music playlist?
- “Ceora” by Lee Morgan
- “Ace of Spades” by Mötorhead (RIP Lemmy)
- “Sally Go Round the Roses” by the Jaynettes
- “My Boy Lollipop” by Millie Small
- “Let It Be Me” by the Everly Brothers
- “Sayonara Blues” by Horace Silver
- “Misty Morning” by Bob Marley
- “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars (top song of 2015!)
- “I Fink U Freaky” by Die Antwoord
- “Angel of Montgomery” by John Prine
- “Lake Charles” by Lucinda Williams
- “The New World” by X
And here’s a sample of Kat in action doing her fiery brand of spoken word.